Five go MK rambling …

Day 81 of (gradually easing) Lockdown. 12/06/2020

Today’s walk was from Waterhall to Stony Stratford and our Famous Five gang consisted of me, Steve and Tom … plus Jess and Alli. This was the final leg of the MK Boundary walk and we intended to finish it in style.

A socially-distanced selfie 😎

The day was forecast for a mixed bag of weather so, being the professional walkers we are, we came prepared for all eventualities!

Our route first skirted along the edge of the Lakes Estate – in fact along a particularly overgrown and rubbish strewn path – not the most scenic of starts but we battled our way through. This led us into Newton Leys which seems a very pleasant newish MK development – pretty lakes and landscaped areas. Our OS app then took us through a woodland trail all the way to the fields in Newton Longville (Alli’s home patch).

So, a familiar walking/running area for Alli – we set off down a lane to link up with Route 51. A little way along an elderly couple stopped us in our tracks to explain that the way ahead was closed – believe it or not more bridge reconstruction – these darn bridges!! Naturally we had to go and see this for ourselves so we advanced onwards, with fingers and toes crossed.

And yes there were big red plastic barriers and padlocks and all sorts of signage …. but not a worker in sight. We did a quick ‘risk assessment’ and established that it was safe enough to climb over said red barriers. No extra 4 miles for us today – not playing that game again!!

We picked up Route 51, touched on Tattenhoe Valley Park and onto North Bucks Way. All very scenic and easy enough walking. A mixture of woodland and open fields – sometimes basked in sunshine and sometimes overcast.

Two by two – they walked and talked ….

Lots of fields and lots of stiles. Luckily Tom and Jess were leading and managed to spot some fairly well camouflaged turning points – literally holes in hedges.

As we neared Calverton the heavens absolutely opened … thank goodness for all our sensible waterproofs. I was very envious of Alli’s new North Face autumn patterned shower proof jacket (it’s fab) – but when the rain hit hard she pulled out a full on waterproof from her tiny backpack (that’s Girl Guide level preparation)!

Some slight discussion as to whether to walk on the road from Calverton into Stony Stratford or to continue across fields and along the river path. The latter won. This did involve crossing a little river at one point but nothing too life threatening!!

As we walked along the river path into Stony Stratford – where we had started the route all those days ago – the sun came out in full shine. When we were back at the car we had been walking for 4 hours and had clocked up over 13 miles.

The original guidance had suggested the route was 63.3 miles – our Garmin and Strava totalled almost 70 miles … but then we did get diverted on occasion!

And so in glorious June sunshine, in great euphoria, we tucked into pate, barbecue chicken and egg sarnies, almond kisses (lovingly baked by Jules) … and lashings of fizzy … in fact the real stuff for this occasion – chilled champagne.

It’s been a Lockdown blast … go explore!!! 😎

A bridge too far …. 😫

Day 79 of Lockdown. 10/06/2020

Today’s walk – Salford to Waterhall

Having had two rest days (for Tom’s blister to heal), we set off heartily on this the penultimate leg of the MK Boundary Walk.

Leaving the village of Salford

An early part of the route involved crossing a bridge to take us over the M1 – simple – we just needed to get to the other side. But, oh no, the bridge was closed for construction purposes.

Tearoom in Salford …. (note to ourselves to come for afternoon tea after Lockdown)

Plan B – we just needed to walk a little further out to get to the next bridge … it would add a little extra on but hey ho, we were keen. Next bridge – closed for construction! Steve suggested jumping the barrier and going over anyway but no no, not for anxious me.

On his app Tom identified another bridge a bit further along so no worries, surely this one had to be open. So, adding a bit more on to today’s route we plodded on. As you may guess – No Entry … Construction in Progress. This time, Steve did jump the barrier to investigate – he was gone ages – but finally reappeared to say that there’s was no way through at the end of the bridge. I was imagining Tom going to find Steve and losing them both in the process.

This led to much discussion – do we go back? Do we carry on going further and further out until we find a way to get to the other side? We’d already added 2 miles onto the journey at this point. It looked like the next possibility was junction 13 of the motorway – God knows what that would involve but there had to be a way over somehow. And that’s the path we chose – not the greatest of starts to a day’s walking.

It’s not often during a ‘ramble’ that you find yourselves walking along the edge of a dual carriageway – it was scary stuff. We hoped that we wouldn’t get picked up as illegal immigrants. Afterwards we did laugh – suggesting what the drivers must have been thinking … “All this countryside and they choose to walk here!!”

After some dubious crossing of the M1 Junction 13 slip roads we found ourselves clear of craziness and finally on to the side we needed to be …. and facing a much longer day of walking. The men then got their heads together to work out the next stage – me, I just follow!!

It all got so much better after that. Still a fair amount of roadside walking but through villages rather than high speed thoroughfares. We passed through Husborne Crawley and into Aspley Guise – another day of complete house envy.

From there on it all started to get a bit hilly. We walked through Woburn Sands and into Aspley Woods, soaking up its natural beauty. Spectacularly tall conifers, huge ferns, rhododendrons and wild foxglove. And we skirted parts of the magnificent Woburn Golf Club course.

There were more woods at Brickhill and some particularly narrow prickly paths, then into long grass. It was at this point that I regretted watching Springwatch the previous evening, where they had an item on it being the season for slow worms, grass snakes and adders.

After this we crossed numerous fields, plenty of them with horses – seems to be an equine area … and plenty of horse poo come to that. In one field the horses were keeping company with goats – felt relieved they were all laying down – didn’t like the look of those horns. I was once chased downhill by a goat at a goat sanctuary – he apparently took a liking to my handbag! My sister, Geraldine, found this hilarious.

I was relieved to climb over the stile … but only to come face to face with a ‘kid’ (with horns) who had obviously managed to stray. He looked at us menacingly and then darted between us, turned around and then started towards us. As Tom said “Don’t run” – he and Steve ran and I was left frozen to the spot. As I took off my rucksack to defend myself, Tom came back to rescue me and the ‘kid’ just bleated and let us go on our way.

A pretty straightforward walk after that and so much more level and downhill. Had one scary moment when the path took us through someone’s front garden – really felt for Tom as two pointers charged towards him (he’s not a great dog lover having been chased down the road by a Rottweiler when he was young). He did the right thing by standing still and the dogs turned out to be lovely, not guard dogs after all. It always seems strange when the Public Footpath takes you onto someone’s property.

The last stretch took us along the canal towpath which made a welcome change. And finally we were at Tom’s car at Waterhall car park, our destination for today. I’m not ashamed to admit I was somewhat weary after what turned out to be 14+ miles – it plays with your mind springing an extra 4 miles onto a planned journey but, as Judi Dench once said “It is not good to cross the bridge before you get to it.”

And Jess came too …. 💕

Day 76 of Lockdown (with some easing). 07/06/2020

Being Sunday, Jess was able to join us today – yay, some girlie company!So, once the cars were jiggled into place, we set off from the very attractive village of Turvey. This village has everything you need – a general stores, a post office, a church and two pubs – I’ve sort of fallen for it.

Today’s walk was Turvey to Salford (not Manchester, the Bedfordshire one).

The hot weather has sadly not returned but we consoled ourselves with “good walking weather” … just as we always feel the need to remark “good drying weather” on hideously windy days!

As we left the cars we were checking each other with “do you have keys?” “Do you have water?” … not taking any chances from now on … we’re professionals!! 🤣

Today we crossed field after field after field … and some quite magnificent ones too with a good selection of crop life. Love the neatness of farming in these parts – I’m definitely catching on to Steve’s admiration for straight lines and rows!

As well as the usual cows, sheep and horses, today we also saw a few hares and a brace of pheasants – beautifully depicting the countryside but too quick to photograph. We did however manage some shots of emus (well, we think they’re emus) … not roaming the hills but roaming around someone’s rather sizeable country residence.

There was also a more than usual amount of road walking today – some country lanes and some slightly busier roads. We also passed more people today than the other days – maybe about 12 in total (not exactly Piccadilly Circus I know).

With trepidation we entered through a gate that had a warning – ‘Beware of the Bull.’ Steve assured us it would be OK and I reassured myself that the farmer surely wouldn’t put a bull in a field which was a public footpath. Tom bravely led the way but as his Mum I could tell by his body language and the way his head was constantly scanning that he was indeed terrified. We picked up a fair old pace, funnily enough … and got to the next gate without the whiff of a horn.

There were a few prickly woods with stingers galore. Steve managed to get a few grazes on his head from low lying branches. But all in all another fabulous day of walking.

We had clocked up just over 11 miles by the time we reached Salford. In the village we came across these two beauties – luckily they were safely installed in a field that we didn’t need to walk through – wouldn’t like to get on the end of one of those horns.

Highland Cattle in Salford

We drove back to Turvey and enjoyed a delicious picnic provided by Tom and Jess. (Tom had got up early to make his Dad’s favourite egg sandwiches … and 7.00am on a Sunday is normally when Tom is just going to bed)!

A couple of days rest now as Tom has a nasty blister … we’ll be back on track for Wednesday. 😎

A rescue mission ….

Day 74 of Lockdown. 05/06/2020

Today’s walk – Olney to Turvey

Started off from Olney at a thoughtfully low stile – some of yesterday’s stiles had really been a stretch for my short legs – it’s OK for these 6’4” and 6’7” giants I walk with.

We walked through a farm where the kindly farmer pointed us in the right direction. Miles and miles of crop land neatly maintained … Steve just loves a straight row of plantings! Again various discussions on what crops were what … seem to be plenty of broad beans in these parts.

Tom strode ahead in his newfound ‘Head of Orienteering‘ role and we marched at a fair old pace through farmland, through woods and forests. The sun came out to shine now and then and it felt like it was warming up … what could possibly go wrong?

Some of the woods were particularly low lying – even I had to crouch down … and we all got torn to shreds with nettles and brambles.

Walked near a firing range where there was a sign indicating ‘Shooting in Progress’ …. must have been silent ammunition. Got excited when we spotted a lookout post but there was clear instruction – ‘do not climb’ – spoilsports!

About half way to our destination and at the end of a very long uphill wade through some rather overgrown broad bean crops, Tom ground to a sudden halt. “I think I’ve messed up” he uttered (that’s the polite version)! I presumed he meant that he had led us in the wrong direction but oh no – it had just dawned on him that he’d left his car keys in Steve’s car. (We were walking to Turvey where Tom’s car was parked – but the keys were in Olney). Steve chirped up “That’s OK, I moved them off the car seat and hid them in the glove compartment.” It took some further discussions between them to finally conclude that we’d hit a problem. And to add to the dilemma, not one of us had money on us so a bus or cab were out of the question. We discussed turning back but then made the decision to soldier on … perhaps one of us could run back once we’d reached Turvey (I wonder who)!!?

Wading through crops ….

Thank God for mobiles … another opportunity to remind Tom about the ‘old days’ before mobile phones existed. Tom made a phone call to Emma and John (who had a good laugh at Tom’s expense) but agreed to come to our rescue. And so we were able to walk on a complete the walk without carrying a load of anxiety.

Turvey House

Finally back in the pretty village of Turvey and it had been a fabulous 10 mile walk.

And so it was ‘The Cumminghams’ to the rescue … God Bless family ❤️. They drove Steve back to retrieve his car in Olney and so retrieve Tom’s keys. All the fun of ‘Logistics.’ 🤣

Desperately need a haircut!! 🤣

Follow the leader … but which one!? 😀

Day 72 of Lockdown. 03/06/2020

Todays’s walk – Salcey Forest – Olney.

After weeks of being spoiled with sunshine, today sees a return to cloud and wind and general chilly-ness! Still, we mustn’t grumble! So with a few more layers of clothing and the cars jiggled into place, we set out from Salcey Forest. Steve and Tom sort of co-planning and co-orienteering … while I just followed the two alpha males in my life!! 🤣

Tom said Salcey Forest always reminds him of Jurassic Park so we trod warily – waiting for a Brontosaurus to pop out anytime. To save on the £6 parking fee today we had parked on the roadside – this led to a very nettle stinging entry into the forest – plenty of dock leaves though.

Another day of stunning scenery and practically the whole countryside to ourselves. For this part of the country it was a particularly hilly day … not as severe as some counties I could mention but a few climbs all the same. Walked through a field of cows but luckily they were laying down – as the Old Wives’ Tale goes a clear sign of rain. Most of them were determined to keep their patches dry but a couple of them got up for a good old stare – there were some calves so I guess they were protecting.

Rocking the shades 😎

Tom is definitely mastering the OS app and as the day went on he assumed leadership! Steve checked it out a few times and there was the odd discussion and difference of opinion … but I foresee a gradual handing over of the baton – well maybe on a temporary basis!

Again there was a difference with Steve’s Garmin and Tom’s iPhone strava – so we chose Tom’s 10 mile recording for the day. Felt right. Have come to the decision that Garmin must have been losing GPS at times.

Before heading home, we enjoyed another picnic in the Forest – this time with hot coffee and homemade lemon drizzle cake. 🍰

Day off tomorrow – back for more on Friday 😊

Where’s water?…..

Day 71 of Lockdown. 02/06/2020

Today, Steve, Tom and I set out on the first leg of the 60 mile Milton Keynes Boundary Walk, a little ‘Easing of Lockdown’ project. We are aiming to cover a distance of 10 miles each day or thereabouts. The logistics have been interesting as we needed a car each end, an ordnance survey app, a picnic and last but not least, plenty of water (the weather is still unseasonably hot)!

Today’s walk – Stony Stratford – Salcey Forest.

We met up with Tom in Salcey Forest, parked up for the princely sum of £6 … then drove in Tom’s car back to Stony Stratford. And off we marched at a reasonable pace – remembering to social distance as much as we could.

A beautiful riverside walk and then we were onto the canal path leading to Cosgrove. Had a little blockage along the towpath – a family of swans just resting before a swim – had to be very patient and let them move in their own good time. Some great bird life and insect life along the way – butterflies, dragonflies – all perfect photo opportunities. Wild flowers out in full force too including the spectacular poppies.

Then across miles of farmland with their magnificent crops looking so healthy in the sunshine. Constant discussions as to what the crops are.

At one point we entered a field where the farmer was chopping up some trees – as we walked through the gate there was a stampede of cattle tearing towards us, with a tractor moving speedily behind. Gulp!! Tom, having been chased by cows the previous weekend was a wee bit nervous … and I’m always on edge where our bovine friends are concerned! The farmer shooed them away and told us just to walk and they’d be fine. So, we did as we were told (with a little backward look now and again) … and indeed we were fine.

The day continued to be spectacularly warm and, only a mile or so in, Tom realised that he had left his water bottle on the roof of his car (placed there while putting his walking boots on). So we got to talking about water in bottles and how in the ‘old days’ we would go out all day as kids with no water. Steve, having grown up in a village and being friendly with the son of a Farmer relayed some interesting tales of drinking out of cattle troughs – apparently there is a section where the fresh water is pumped in from the ground. There were plenty of these troughs around today … but Tom was not for trying!!

The orienteering and recording of activity is of course an important element to our walking … and Dad and Son were sharing this well. Tom is relatively new to Strava and has only used the OS app once before, so Steve was enjoying passing on his knowledge and experience …whilst still holding firmly on to the reins of course!! Strange business though … at the end of our journey, Steve’s Garmin watch had clocked up 10 and a half miles while Tom’s Strava on iPhone showed that we had walked 12 miles. And boy it felt like 12 miles – I knew which one I was choosing.

And so we’d reached our destination, Salcey Forest – sun still shining, we settled on a shaded picnic table and enjoyed a feast of rolls, crisps and fruit … with lashings of ice cold water, which had been stored in the cool box.

And then we drove back to drop Tom off at his car – where his trusty water bottle was still standing proudly and faithfully on the car roof …. boiling hot 🥵